Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

January 3, 2014 18:34 rlanctot

About a week ago I posted a blog debunking a report that Google would announce an automotive consortium at CES ( - Rumors of Android Consortium at CES Greatly Exaggerated) and further asserting that Google would not even be attending the event. Since that post, multiple report have averred that Audi will announce its plans to deploy Android in its cars.

First, Google will have a room for meetings in the South Hall at CES.  Second, there are rumors afoot of an Open Android Alliance comprising the likes of Audi, GM, Hyundai and, maybe, Honda, among others with plans for Android implementation.  Third, it does matter a little bit.

As for Audi implementing Android - at some future date - this is hardly a big deal.  Hyundai beat Audi to the punch in announcing its plans.  The roster of competing car makers adopting Android is growing by the day - mainly because Android offers the prospect of much more rapid development and deployment of new applications thanks to the massive and growing population of developers and Android's increasing dominance in the handset space: Android Captures Record 81% Share of Global Smartphone Shipments in Q3 2013.

In addition, Audi's preference for real-time OS provider QNX means it may be better positioned than most car makers to implement Android.  QNX and Android already have been shown to play well together.  (It doesn't hurt that Audi is using nVidia Tegra processors in many of its cars given Android's resource demands.) The adoption of Android by a growing roster of car makers is not good news, on the other hand, for Microsoft and a host of legacy OS providers.  And even the twin initiatives for Linux adoption in cars - the GenIVI Alliance and The Linux Foundation's Automotive Grade Linux - will suffer from the loss of developer focus.  Then, again, Android itself is based on Linux - so maybe Linux is the winner.

The rapid adoption of Android is a bit embarrassing to the two existing Linux initiatives, both of which are intended to reduce development time and cost for car makers and their suppliers.  Expectations are that developing in and for Android will be far faster and less expensive.

The shift to Android does reflect the growing influence of mobile on the automotive market.  And this suggests that the automotive industry will continue to take its cues from mobile as software continues to grow in importance in cars and as a proportion of the cost of in-vehicle systems.

As for the potential for a consortium, I hope any members of a Google-led consortium are good listeners, because that's what they are most likely to be doing - listening to Google's terms of engagement.  Sign here.  The single biggest point of impact of putting Android into cars is the immediate need for software update capabilities to support that frequently changing OS.  If for no other reason than the need for software updates, Android's introduction into cars represents a key turning point for vehicle connectivity.  Cue Billy Ocean:  "Get outta my dreams etc...."

January 1, 2014 13:00 rlanctot

Next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) in Las Vegas is notable both for what will and what will not be on display. There will be 27 TechZones ( including at least two focusing on automotive technology: Driverless Car Experience and GoElectricDrive. There are also more trendy focal points such as 3D printing, digital health, fashionware, and fitness tech.

What the organizers are missing, though, is the wave of safety and security technology emerging from the nation’s military sector along with the rapid innovation impacting law enforcement and emergency response communities. The most visible contribution coming from the military is the commercial application of drones. Just this past week the Federal Aviation Administration approved six sites for drone testing.

But drones are meaningless in the context of the technological advances that have transformed the modern battlefield leveraging advanced location and wireless technologies, many of which are already propagating through law enforcement and emergency response applications and industries. Moving vehicles and personnel safety through hostile country is a dangerous and expensive proposition and military contractors stand to benefit handsomely from the technologies they have pioneered.

Not only will these technologies not be appropriately highlighted at CES, they will also largely be absent at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the following week.  Instead, both the consumer electronics and automotive industries are spellbound by the machinations of Apple and Google. 

This hyper-focus on the Internet leaders is leaving the automotive industry’s flanks exposed.  Real, mission-critical innovation with commercial application is emerging directly from the military.  Is it too late for the Defense Department to get a booth at CES?  We’ll see next week.

December 30, 2013 21:01 rlanctot

Wireless carriers may shift from public service messages (2013’s multi-carrier “It Can Wait” campaign) to off-board policy control to mitigate the impact of smartphone texting on safe driving in 2014. The strategy, if it comes to pass, points toward the use of apps or services, from companies such as Location Labs, intended to block text messages when devices appear to be in use in a moving vehicle.

Blocking of mobile phone use in cars has been proposed many times before, including by the Director of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, who was a candidate to replace Transportation Secretary (and distracted driving maven) Ray LaHood at his departure earlier in 2013. Blocking of text messages or phone calls is the wrong path to achieving safer driving.

The concept of blocking wireless calls or text messages in cars has been opposed by organizations as diverse as law enforcement officials and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Blocking text messages in cars can prevent the reception (or delivery) of urgent messages related to traffic, weather, or health emergencies or even criminal activity.

Mobile phones represent a bundle of potentially lifesaving technologies in cars broadly summarized as providing contextual awareness.  Contextual awareness itself can be used to manage on-board communications in a moving vehicle, but doing so remotely doesn’t make much sense – especially if the consumer will be asked to pay for the privilege.

Car makers ranging from GM and Volvo to Daimler and Nissan are all building solutions designed to integrate mobile phones into a contextually aware experience in the car. The critical element in these systems, though, is their manifestation on the terminal (the car) and in the control of the driver. Car makers are increasingly making use of connected mobile phones with up-to-date maps to enable safe, accurate navigation and driving experiences – while keeping life-saving lines of communication open to the car and driver.

It is true that the problem of texting and driving is serious. Approximately 10 people a day are killed in “distraction-affected” car accidents in the U.S., according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency estimates that as much as 20% of these fatalities can be attributed to the use of mobile phones.

The agency has responded with requests to the 50 U.S. states for bans on the handheld use of mobile phones in cars along with bans on texting. The result has been a quilt of compliance with outright text bans in 41 states, and a variety of other measures limiting the use of mobile phones while driving. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety anti-texting laws map:

But none of these bans are intended to block mobile phone reception, something which is currently being contemplated.The Location Labs application, for instance, is capable of blocking texts according to user-determined (or parent-determined) protocols – particularly for instance when the phone detects usage in a moving vehicle.

Location Labs is a focus of the current development activity since it claims more than 50M installs of its safety applications with more than 1M paying subscribers.  It is not clear how many of these installs include the ability to block text messages, though a VentureBeat article notes: “You could very well be subscribed to its service right now without even knowing it.”

For its part, NHTSA has good cause for concern as texting has exploded in the U.S. and globally with the CTIA reporting 2.19T (yes, trillian with a "T") text messages sent in the U.S. in 2012, a six-fold increase from 2007.  And that text messaging is producing 10's of billions of dollars in carrier revenue, according to Strategy Analytics estimates

  ( - Global Mobile Enterprise Business Application Revenue Forecast, 2011-2017).

Using the smartphone’s contextual awareness to enhance safe driving, as in the case of an application such as Global Mobile Alert's Pull Over to Text and others, rather than setting protocols remotely is the more appropriate approach to solving the texting and driving problem.  Some ideas look too good to be true – and charging customers to provide a service to limit their text messaging (for which they are also paying) is one of those cases. 

December 29, 2013 18:57 rlanctot

It is the expectation of the insurance industry as a whole that all policyholders will eventually be subject to participation in some form of usage-based insurance (UBI) program.

Dave Snyder, vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) and the final speaker at the recent Center for Insurance Policy & Research panel discussion in Washington, DC, made that anticipated outcome and projected objective clear. The goal is to bring UBI and all its benefits to all policyholders.

UBI is no longer a theoretical exercise or a concept being tested. UBI is changing and shaping the thinking as regards vehicle connectivity – ie. telematics - overall. Just as all cars will soon have embedded modems, much like smartphones on wheels, auto insurance will ultimately be tied to this technology as well.

In the U.S. alone there are 26 independent UBI programs, according to Robin Harbage, a director at Towers Watson, an actuarial firm serving the insurance industry. Harbage was the first speaker at the recent Center for Insurance Policy Research (CIPR) gathering in Washington, DC, where the merits of UBI programs were discussed and debated by a panel of six industry experts.

Almost as long-lived (16 years) as the venerable OnStar program (17 years) from GM, UBI offerings have found the strongest following in the U.S. thanks to Progressive’s aggressive implementation and promotion of SnapShot.. Originally known as Autograph when it was piloted, SnapShot is now widely advertised on television in the U.S.

Harbage says nine of the top 10 insurers, representing 75% of the market, in the U.S. now have programs, with 49 states having four or more available programs and Ohio with more than 10.  While UBI programs are ramping relatively rapidly in countries such as Italy (where the eponymous Monti Decree obliged auto insurers to make discounted “black box” UBI programs available to all customers on demand), the United Kingdom (to combat insurance fraud), and South Africa (to reduce theft), the U.S. has forged a leadership position based on Progressive’s low cost approach.

For the insurance industry UBI is all about cost.  UBI is all about using vehicle tracking data to create better underwriting algorithms to reduce so-called “loss costs.”  Loss costs, in the words of the industry’s standards-setting body ISO, “are accurate projections of average future claim costs and loss-adjustment expenses – overall and by coverage, class, territory and other categories.”

For the insurance industry, UBI solutions represent the next paradigm shift in underwriting.  The insurance industry is the only industry that sells a product for which the cost is unknown or, at best, estimated.  The last great shift in the industry came when credit scores came into use as an enhancement to the loss cost estimating process.

Of course, UBI introduces all the same concerns implicated in the use of credit reports including harm to protected classes such as race, gender and income.  The panel discussing the issue at CIPR included Harbage along with Allen Greenberg of the US Department of Transportation, James Bielak of standards-setter ACORD, Sandra Castagna of the Maryland Insurance Administration, Birny Birnbaum of the Center for Economic Justice, and Snyder of PCI.

UBI also introduces privacy concerns and the potential for vehicle hacking, dependent, as the dominant programs are, on the use of devices that plug into a vehicle’s OBDII port.  (The panel did not spend much time debating the merits of permanently installed vs. smartphone vs. cigarette lighter-based vs. OBDII devices or combinations thereof – or even the use of data from embedded systems such as OnStar.)

First and foremost, UBI is important because it is forcing the insurance industry, which has the most immediate and significant financial interest in vehicle connectivity, to sort out the legal issues.  The discussion at CISP focused on privacy, data ownership and data use – the three foundational issues upon which the telematics industry is being built.

These foundational principles were highlighted by Harbage who noted that any UBI program must explain three issues to participating policyholders:

  1. What data will be collected?

  2. What will be done with the data?

  3. What organization(s) will have access to the data?

There are many additional questions implicated in those three – but they represent the core of the value proposition.  Harbage went on to describe what is often perceived and presented as the win-win-win proposition of UBI programs for consumers, regulators and insurers.

Consumers are seen gaining control of their premium along with more transparency and even driving behavior feedback.  Consumers also presumably appreciate green driving dividends from participating in the programs, according to Harbage, along with value added services, which can range from roadside assistance to geo-fencing, among a wide range of other applications.

Regulators and government representatives point to the fact that UBI program participants tend to drive less and in a safer manner, reducing accidents, congestion and emissions.  The use of actual driving data is also seen as a “fairer” means of discriminating risk.

For insurers, UBI programs offer the opportunity to steal the best risks from competitors in a highly competitive and mature market, while also reducing churn – the tendency of customers to shop for better rates and switch their coverage.  The data also has allowed actuaries to understand that certain “miles driven” are 1000’s of times more risky than others, in the words of Harbage. 

UBI programs have also given insurers something new to talk about with existing and prospective customers – rejuvenating the market and stimulating both competition and customer interest.  These two elements, though, have been undermined by the so-far ambivalent approach of most insurers to offering UBI programs to existing customers.  Most insurance brokers in the U.S. discourage existing policy holders from participating in UBI programs – though that may be changing.

The insurance industry’s lingering ambivalence is rooted in a number of factors including the lag inherent in obtaining regulatory approvals, the limitations on the use of vehicle data, the lack of understanding of vehicle data, and the perception of UBI as a discount-only offering.  Layered onto the privacy and discrimination concerns along with the cost of creating the necessary hardware, software and personnel infrastructure and it is easy to see the sources of the industry/s delayed embrace of UBI.

Still, the benefits to insurers far outweigh these concerns.  In addition to the societal positives outlined by Harbage and by Greenberg of the US DOT, UBI programs also lead to substantial reductions in claims, both in amount and severity.  Greenberg estimated that claims reduction at 8% beyond what would normally be anticipated.

Greenberg further noted the connection between UBI programs and the pilot programs (in Oregon and elsewhere) currently testing road use taxing to compensate for declining fuel tax revenues fed in part by the onset of electric vehicles.  Both UBI and usage-based taxes (VMT) are likely to require a module connected to the vehicle.  In a similar vein, Bielak of ACORD noted the forensic potential of UBI devices for determining liability, an application already widely used in Europe.

So the value proposition for insurers seems unmitigatedly positive.  UBI gives insurers a powerful tool to steal low-risk customers from competitors, reduce churn, reduce claims and loss cost, and potentially obtain forensic information from crash scenes while enabling value-added service opportunities.

But associate commissioner Castagna from the Maryland Insurance Commissioners office helped CIPR attendees better understand the obstacles to progress by highlighting the wide range of questions regulators still have with UBI programs including:

  1. How frequently will data be transmitted from the telematics device when the vehicle is in motion?

  2. How long must the device stay in the vehicle to obtain a “valid sample” of driving behavior data?

  3. Where is all data stored, for how long and who has access?

  4. What combination of the data results in a discount?

Castagna had further questions regarding the determination of the discount, disclosures, data usage (law enforcement, claims investigation, marketing, sales), the use of geographic zones based on traffic or business density, notification of discount changes due to driving behavior, and explanation of changes in discounts.  From her statements it was clear that these were not settled matters.

Castagna stated that one of the Maryland commission’s concerns is to try to determine if “increased market penetration of telematics insurance and PAYD programs positively impact low-income households.”

Birnbaum of the Center for Economic Justice (CEJ) shared Castagna’s concern that UBI programs be made accessible to low-income consumers.  The worry is that low-income consumers will subsidize participants in UBI programs while not having access to the same discounts.

CEJ favors the use of mileage-based insurance programs over the prevailing “driver behavior” offerings being widely adopted in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Birnbaum highlighted his concerns as follows:

  1. Privacy issues and use and distribution of data by insurers for purposes other than loss mitigation and pricing, including, for example, insurers using information from telematics in claim settlements when helpful to insurers but not making the data available to consumers when helpful to consumers;

  2. Disproportionate impact of offer and sale of UBI against consumers in low- and moderate income and minority communities;

  3. Failure to achieve meaningful loss mitigation because of black box approach by insurers of collecting data for rating;

  4.  Use of telematics data as merely another data mining exercise following on insurer use of credit information – including penalizing consumers not because of driving behavior but because of where and when they drive as a function of work and housing segregation;

  5. Limited regulatory oversight to date.

Birnbaum says CEJ wants the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to:

  1. Establish data ownership and privacy standards.

  2. Establish standards for permitted and prohibited uses of consumer data.

  3. Collect and analyze granular data on offers and sales of UBI based related to prohibited risk classification factors, including race and income;  Require insurers to include variables for race and income in generalized linear models.

  4. Establish standards for disclosure of telematics results and rating programs to ensure consumers receive feedback necessary to alter behavior.

  5. Replicate analyses presented by insurers in summary form – require insurers to produce all analyses – not just loss ratio as outcome variable, but other analyses using other outcome variables.

And as a final comment, Birnbaum said, “Stop this fiction of discounts-only unless and until the rating factor can be associated with lower overall claims and not simply a redistribution of income.”

The bottom line for Birnbaum is the same as for Harbage – insurers must disclose what data is being gathered and how it is being used.  Additionally, rules of data ownership and protection must also be set and implemented before UBI will be embraced by consumers.

These questions and concerns are the very same concerns confronting auto makers like GM which have been gathering data for years with little or no oversight or regulation.  The task rests with the insurance industry to lay the groundwork for UBI which may well contribute to or, in fact, determine the success of telematics more broadly.

Snyder’s vision of the comprehensive implementation of UBI technology cannot be exaggerated.  As UBI adoption in the U.S. progresses, still estimated at fewer than 2M policies, the adverse selection pressure will grow on insurers as-yet not offering UBI services.  Insurers who fail to explore UBI offerings will not only find themselves providing insurance to customers with the worst risk profiles, they will also miss out on the value-added service opportunities presented by UBI.

December 27, 2013 17:09 rlanctot

Earlier this year I published in a blog a list of my recommended Top Ten priorities for the incoming Secretary of Transportion, Anthony Foxx. Secretary Foxx replaced the irascible Ray LaHood, known for prioritizing driver distraction mitigation measures and delaying implementation of the back-up camera mandate.

The blog led to a meeting with five representatives of the DOT at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC – two DOT engineers participated remotely via video link. Readers of the blog had the opportunity to offer their own recommendations in advance of that meeting and their thoughts, encompassing everything from V2X to parking to mileage-based taxation of road use, are compiled here.

The meeting with the DOT has not yet led to any specific outcomes, but the line of communication remains open. Readers of the blog had some powerful feedback, all of which reflect the wide range of thinking about regulating cars, reducing highway fatalities and congestion and accommodating mobile devices.

I have compiled the verbatim inputs here while removing identifying information of the respondents themselves. While some respondents were communicating to me, some addressed their comments directly to the DOT. All of the thoughts expressed here are worth reviewing on the eve of the new year.

 The candor and insights expressed in these comments is refreshing.

 Original blog post: - A To-Do List for the new U.S. Transportation Secretary - Anthony Foxx

 The responses – in no particular order (and with some editing):

 Respondent A:  V2V a top priority

“In regards to V2X/DSRC, I agree that 14 years of research without any model of adoption has not helped the cause of DSRC. The key problem, however, that we must recognize is that V2X suffers from two issues - (1) "Fax machine syndrome" - i.e. you need a certain critical mass of cars with the system before anyone sees the benefits and (2) lack of development of infrastructure, i.e., the "V2I" component - that does not require the critical mass.

“Some kind of mandate would catalyze or at least partially mitigate the first problem - but I agree that this needs to happen sooner than later. Also adoption by fleets, emergency vehicles could help the cause and accelerate how consumers will start seeing the benefits.  Mandate also could work better if there is opportunity to articulate clear discernible  benefit - similar to how OEMs can have their products certified Five Star - if they include certain safety features and pass some specific tests.
“DOT's & all the ITS community should in their turn step up execution of the roadside unit installation. I have been hearing for too long that US does not have the funding prowess to do anything like what Japan has done.”

Respondent B:  U.S. falling behind

·         The US is a telecom/telematics laggard, despite many of the innovations occurring within its borders. Can the DOT provide incentives to increase innovation and remove barriers? – (Such an effort could be) much like what DOE is doing with the Green Button initiative.

·         It would be nice to see the Federal government demonstrating that they understand market conditions and recognize trends and act accordingly. It still feels like they are about 7 years behind current market position. What actions or steps do they have mapped out currently? What is the future state?

·         I would like to see NHTSA work with the FCC to create persistent data connections on the nations’ highways. This would not only supplement current “rural Internet” efforts, but act as an economic engine.

·         Driver distraction is a complex and multifaceted issue. Needs to be broken down into attackable segments. Not one big blob.

·         Consumers are increasingly seeking to customize their applications and experiences and to some respect, their persona through their cellphones/tablets. Bringing devices into vehicles is part of a bigger distraction issue. But this will not stop, so why does not the Federal government take a proactive approach, recognize that these devices are here to stay and seek to work with industry to either self-regulate or work in concert to create guidelines and not just take reactive positions with banning devices or seeking to create a standard which will be outdated by the time they are done… (long process, & costly).

Respondent C:  The power of voice

“Thank you for offering to provide xxx’s feedback to the  U.S. DOT via your meeting.  (We) believe in the power of voice technology to make people’s everyday lives easier and more productive. We ultimately strive to provide experiences that are so natural and intuitive that people don’t realize they’re interacting with technology. 

“As it relates to driver distraction, we believe voice technology vastly mitigates the disruption that accessing services in the car causes.  With that in mind, greater input into regulation by (the industry) would greatly facilitate and expedite the industry getting to a place where the right set of regulations guide the development of the right set of experiences. 

“As is called out in the blog, laws should be clearer about the types of interaction drivers can have with their phones in the car.  There is also more work to be done testing touch screen interactions and what the driver can enable while driving at high speeds versus when stationary, and as related, the optimal trade-offs between touch and voice.

“As automakers and technology companies evolve in their knowledge about what works best, there should be an ongoing and extensive conversation where those lessons inform regulation. And of course, there needs to be greater input from drivers themselves and studies that seek to find optimal ways of reducing distraction. (We) will continue to be a willing participant in those efforts.”

Respondent D:  Minimum gas mileage

“I am not in favor of a V2X connectivity mandate but rather look at it similar to a rear-view camera.  It's an option which if deployed in every vehicle would make driving safer but so do advanced crumple systems and anti-lock brakes.  Car companies differentiate through technology and make available as features which they in turn monetize through premium packages.  

“I am in favor however of minimum gas mileage standards.

“Regarding NHTSA driving distraction efforts, I am not familiar enough with them in the USA to comment.  I do believe it makes sense to have national comprehensive guidelines for all OEM's selling vehicles in the US.”

Respondent E:  Don’t touch your phone

#1 – Mandate: Do Not Touch Your Phone While Driving

Comment:  YES, in spades.  Totally too confusing with inconsistent results and wasted engineering and duplicate solutions.  Data on driving impact is solid.  PRIORITY A.

#2 – Endorse California legislation AB 397 for the creation of a VIN-based Next of Kin Notification database.

Comment:  Interesting, probably important, but not high on my list.  PRIORITY:  B/C.

#3 - Implement the back-up camera mandate.

AGREE totally.  Data is in, analysis done, cost is NOT as high as industry OEM and suppliers imply; besides implementation of smart radios and infotainment is approaching commoditization……and the flat screen will be paid for.  DO IT.  PRIORITY:  A.

#4 – Provide a legislative framework and guidelines for states to register and license self-driving cars with the sole requirement that drivers must be in the driver seat and responsible for control of the vehicle.

Yes good points, but down the curve in priority for me.  Got to keep the DOT focused on the immediate payback items…otherwise we'll lose 'em.  This one is ten to fifteen years away.  PRIORITY:  C

#5 – Initiate a process for mandating the installation of DSRC modules on commercial vehicles in FMCSA Classes 6, 7, 8.

Comment:  Yes, Yes, Yes.  Would love to see the data if this was enacted and supported with Class 6-8 in early 2000's and vehicles in 2003-5….in terms of how many vehicles on the road, the coverage, and the lives saved.  This is incredibly embarrassing that it has taken this long…..particularly given that the government in this case had the correct foresight to reserve the spectrum.  AGREE TOTALLY.  PRIORITY:  A

#6 – Require the installation of DSRC modules on all emergency and service vehicles.

See above logic in #5 and morph it for this one.  AGREE TOTALLY, this is NOT rocket science.  PRIORITY:  A

#7 – Add LTE and LTE Advanced modules to all current DSRC tests.

Yes, I agree totally….but am biased with work with client in the LTE space.  This is important but not critical.  PRIORITY:  B

#8 – Highlight elements of Next Gen 911 research focused on the acquisition of crash scene information including text, video, data and voice via smartphones.

Seems important but need more study and data for me.  Would give this one a NO VOTE.  Sorry for wishy washy vote.

#9 – Highlight app development intended to improve the functioning of all transit including public transportation, traffic information, schedules, traffic, car and ride sharing.

Yes, I would not have thought of this one.  Good stuff.  PRIORITY:  B

#10 – Roadside Bluetooth installations should be required to add DSRC.

Good point…..but lower priority.  PRIORITY:  C

Good luck and God speed, Secretary Foxx.  Now get to work!

Respondent F:  Prove the efficacy of DSRC

“The path of mandating V2X communications in vehicles should be pursued IF AND ONLY IF the INCREMENTAL SAFETY benefits of such technology justifies the INCREMENTAL COST of adding this technology WHEN COMPARED WITH A BASELINE OF WHERE WE WILL BE IN 3-5 YEARS WITH INDEPENDENT SENSORS AND SAFETY SYSTEMS. 

“The often quoted figure of addressing almost 80% of accidents involving unimpaired drivers is a useless and almost content-less statement.  First, about 1/2 of accidents involve impaired drivers, but some of those WOULD be prevented.  More important, the percentage that might be addressed is meaningless without an efficacy number.  Will we be actually preventing 90-100% of that 80%, or only 1-2%?  

“If there is sound evidence of a clear benefit, then the country needs to move ahead as rapidly as possible:

1) Rulemaking to set up a mandate for both light vehicles and trucks

2) Begin almost immediately to deploy the security and roadside infrastructure that is necessary to support deployment, AND that can provide immediate benefits, even if these are non-safety benefits, as V2V benefits will be a long time coming. Work with AASHTO, Need to demonstrate need to preserve at least a portion of the DSRC spectrum for dedicated safety use. People who buy such systems (even if mandated) will need to see benefits. 

3) Explore developing broad stakeholder support for additional targeted funding.  The Interstate system wasn't built by reallocating existing Federal aid funds.  If V2X can really save 10's of 1,000s of lives per year, it deserves at least 1/10th of what goes into Homeland Security.  

4) Do NOT get distracted by claims that DSRC is not needed.  There has been more than sufficient analysis to demonstrate the need for DSRC (or an equally capable alternative that is NOT 100% off the shelf).  DSRC is just a piece of the connected vehicle puzzle, with a large role for cellular data as well, but it is a required piece, especially for prevention of imminent crashes.

“If solid, sound, defensible quantitative data supporting a rulemaking decision is NOT there this summer, then do NOT move forward with a mandate.

“Automated Vehicles

Take a go slow approach with regard to National Regulation.  Monitor developments, provide expert support to states when asked, but do NOT rush to regulate until more is known or a significant safety problem develops.  National rules will be needed eventually, but setting national rules too early, or even providing overly restrictive authoritative guidance could significantly impede the development of this promising area, which has, in the long run, the potential to be much more revolutionary than connected vehicles.

“Eventually, we will have automated vehicles that communicate with one another and the roadside.  It is not an either / or proposition.  Connected vehicle technology is not made obsolete by automated vehicles, although its role and importance will evolve over time."

Respondent G:  Security, security, security

“The biggest issue as I see it - and I am literally 'seeing and touching' it this week at DefCon and Blackhat is the lack of security 'understanding' in V2X systems - hell we infected 2 major systems - got access to core CPU critical controls - and that was after we got complete control of the infotaiment so we can capture video from the rear camera - we can turn on/off systems lights, turn on safety indicators brake failure -and had we wanted we could have crashed a self-parking car.   You know who I am working with and those company names can't be disclosed - but if I had XX OS in my car  - or XXX OS or worse XXXX I would be worried.   As far as mission critical apps go - and NTSHA goes - candidly, lawmakers can't spell information technology security much less understand it - in part because there is not a 'true' testing laboratory that can independently validate technology that isn't influenced by a 'check' or as I call it pre-paid result

“Claiming security is a dangerous game - because for some it is a game - for others it’s an industry for which it is a day-to-day cat and mouse game which keeps the cash register ringing - I would strongly support a V2X hackathon to bring forward a group of legendary subject knowledge folks that could wake up the engineers and worse the sales folks selling mission critical safety on the beltway.

“XXX is of course CRUSHING things in the auto and mobile space - and I predict their solutions will be integrated with more major OEM's - we are in week 8 of testing - and so far nobody has been able to find an attack surface to go after.”

Respondent H:  Let the market decide

1 – Mandate: Do Not Touch Your Phone While Driving

Better to mandate bluetooth connectivity in a car.  unenforcable otherwise.  even I have been engrossed in a Bluetooth conversation in my car and driven past two exits on the beltway.

#2 – Endorse California legislation AB 397 for the creation of a VIN-based Next of Kin Notification database.

Sure do this then run a post office address correction/update system so that we can get license revokes off the road due to no insurance on car

#3 - Implement the back-up camera mandate.

Let the free market dictate this effort.  People who have kids and bikes in the driveway will buy it.  (Older demographics) won't care.

#4 – Provide a legislative framework and guidelines for states to register and license self-driving cars with the sole requirement that drivers must be in the driver seat and responsible for control of the vehicle .

Another pie-in-the-sky program.  There, as in telematics in general, will be revenue streams-but less than profitable.

#5 – Initiate a process for mandating the installation of DSRC modules on commercial vehicles in FMCSA Classes 6, 7, 8.

They tried this with radar detectors many years ago to warn on the radar detector display of highway repairs, and school bus stops.  There were not enough radar detectors deployed to make a difference. We are overthinking safety to justify jobs of regulators.

#6 – Require the installation of DSRC modules on all emergency and service vehicles.

Not enough deployment to receive the signals.  They can talk to each other only.

7 – Add LTE and LTE Advanced modules to all current DSRC tests.

It does not matter to me.

#8 – Highlight elements of Next Gen 911 research focused on the acquisition of crash scene information including text, video, data and voice via smartphones.

More ivory tower stuff.

#9 – Highlight app development intended to improve the functioning of all transit including public transportation, traffic information, schedules, traffic, car and ride sharing.

Let the free market run

#10 – Roadside Bluetooth installations should be required to add DSRC.

Are you trying to turn us into Europeans who have micromanaged lives.

Respondent I:  Private sector outreach


“Any chance they would construct a message about USDOT partnering with local government and private sector to create pilot scale programs around advanced transportation?  Funding to create a reasonable size area for proving connected car applications or other transportation innovations would help advance new solutions, provide exposure to municipal markets, open the door to research-industry collaboration, and provide valuable performance data on physical systems.”

Respondent J:  Do something

#1 – Mandate: Do Not Touch Your Phone While Driving

This is a good one, but may be unrealistic unless there are some complementary guidelines on what a person CAN do with their phone. i.e. people use their GPS and tablets – if the phone is not allowed to be touched what about all the other distracting things? How about something more simple – the phone either stays in your pocket/purse or it goes in a cradle…

#2 – Endorse California legislation AB 397 for the creation of a VIN-based Next of Kin Notification database.

Seems pretty straight forward.

#3 - Implement the back-up camera mandate.

Do back up accidents really warrant a huge change in the industry? Mandating this just adds cost to the product and thus to the consumer. Mandating this is a waste of time as people may just drive this option out due to their choices. Govt could spend their time elsewhere.


#4 – Provide a legislative framework and guidelines for states to register and license self-driving cars with the sole requirement that drivers must be in the driver seat and responsible for control of the vehicle.

Definitely need this.


#5 – Initiate a process for mandating the installation of DSRC modules on commercial vehicles in FMCSA Classes 6, 7, 8.


#6 – Require the installation of DSRC modules on all emergency and service vehicles.


#7 – Add LTE and LTE Advanced modules to all current DSRC tests.


#8 – Highlight elements of Next Gen 911 research focused on the acquisition of crash scene information including text, video, data and voice via smartphones.

This doesn’t seem all that feasible. It would require a fairly aggressive set of standards for smartphone apps that collect this information. I think a better route would be to have this as a data standard for any device that is plugged into the vehicle for the sole purpose of collecting driving data (i.e. OBDII devices)


#9 – Highlight app development intended to improve the functioning of all transit including public transportation, traffic information, schedules, traffic, car and ride sharing.
Don’t think the govt needs to get into this one.


#10 – Roadside Bluetooth installations should be required to add DSRC.

No comment on this one


Respondent K:  Use existing technology

“Not sure – as a Brit – that my contribution would be welcome. Last time this happened you guys chucked some tea into a harbour!

“I’ve seen this argument roll out here in 2005 – 2008 as the UK government were lobbied by road side infrastructure (RSI) providers like Kapsch.

“My problem with DSRC and Bluetooth is that any RSI is hugely expensive and a sole use technology.

“Why not use M2M, Cloud and mAnalytics technology and simply add these as an additional set of applications using the wider set of technologies.”

Respondent L:  Prioritize automated driving

1. No direct interaction with the phone’s display or buttons. We think that this is really important

2. Automated driving is big for senior citizens and others. I want to be able to drive until I'm 125. Google is doing a great job at this. 

3. Safety, safety, safety

4. Automatic notification!!! 

I'm most impressed that you are pushing this. Please let me know if as a technologist that is not running a part-taking big company I can help you in any way. 

Respondent M:  Back off

  1. What if the phone is mounted in the vehicle. more specifically, how is a phone mounted to a dashboard any different than touching an OEM or aftermarket touchscreen that is bolted into a car.
  2. What if the vehicle is stopped/parked/off but keys in ignition
  3. What if you are using your phone as a phone?
  4. Carve out emergency situations?
  5. Common sense check… if most cars only have Bluetooth or AUX in… are you telling consumers to not listen to music in the car? What do you think they are going to do? A few states used to have laws (Utah for example) that it’s only a crime/offense if you do something else bad while you are on the phone… e.g. if you are texting and driving, fine… but if you get in an accident, or swerve, or something like that, you get in BIG trouble…

Respondent N:  Accommodate phones safely

“Thanks for reaching out on this!  The below are my personal viewpoints.  I copy a few of my colleagues and partners in case they have diverging opinions or want to add or elaborate on anything.

“As the benefits of V2X are potentially massive, but widely dispersed throughout society (reduced congestion and improved traffic efficiency, better ability to manage the wear-and-tear of the physical infrastructure, fewer accidents resulting in saved lives, reduced insurance costs, etc.,) I do believe some kind of government mandate or at least government push (e.g., crash rating bias) is justified.  This is coming from someone who philosophically is opposed to most forms of government interference in private enterprise.   But here we have a situation in which the biggest beneficiaries are not necessarily the parties who will bear the brunt of the costs of implementation.  The situation is further complicated in the U.S. by the omnipresent fear of litigation.  Therefore, I put my vote squarely in favor of government mandate (or push) for V2X.

“Having said that, it is my sincere hope that US industry does not sit on its hands and wait for such a mandate, but that it borrow a few pages from the European model of cooperation between industry and government to just get things moving. 

“On Driver Distraction legislation.  No one can be in favor of driver distraction!  Texting while driving is simply criminal.  However, the attempts that I have seen so far tend to be very clumsy broad brush attempts (it is illegal in California to touch your smart phone while driving, regardless of the intent or purpose, since to a police officer this cannot be distinguished from texting or non-hands-free calling.  However, it is perfectly legal to touch your Tom-Tom or Hertz-Never-Lost.   Smart-Phones can be a significant enhancement to existing safety systems in the car (I don’t believe they can be replacements for safety critical systems, but they can enhance them, and in the absence of a telematics system, why not let someone use their smart phone for this?), and there is a risk that the US Government may throw this baby out with the driver-distraction-bath-water.

“Furthermore, some studies have suggested that a certain amount of “distraction” actually enhances the driver’s ability to concentrate and react to his or her environment (I believe it was Delphi that did that study, but maybe they were quoting someone else).  So there needs to be an element of common sense put into these regulations.”

Respondent O:  Mileage-based taxation

“My only addition to your excellent list would be for the US DOT to take the lead in considering new ways to collect highway taxes other than from the gasoline pump.  As the fuel efficiency in gasoline vehicles improves, along with the growth of hybrid and electric vehicles, the US DOT and state departments of transportation must begin taking concrete steps to accommodate decreased revenues from gasoline collections.  When we read about gas tax alternatives, we usually hear about the challenges of hardware and connectivity costs for collecting taxes based on vehicle miles driven.  As you may be aware, XXX has solutions to measure accurate and validated vehicle mileage without the need for expensive hardware.  Accurately measuring actual road useage, and collecting taxes accordingly, is the most fair and equitable means of paying for our highway infrastructure.”

Respondent P:  Do something

#1 – Mandate: Do Not Touch Your Phone While Driving

Support -- dock n lock but let it integrate

#2 – Endorse California legislation AB 397 for the creation of a VIN-based Next of Kin Notification database.

Don't support but get contact call on all mobile devices

#3 - Implement the back-up camera mandate.

Obvious, easy and safe. Just do it

#4 – Provide a legislative framework and guidelines for states to register and license self-driving cars with the sole requirement that drivers must be in the driver seat and responsible for control of the vehicle.

Support with a window of time for re-evaluation so technology matures we are not having to fight the Hill

#5 – Initiate a process for mandating the installation of DSRC modules on commercial vehicles in FMCSA Classes 6, 7, 8.

Absolutely support

Respondent Q:  In-vehicle gateway

“What is missing is a mechanism to stimulate aftermarket innovation in vehicle telematics.  

“What I would propose is to mandate a native wireless CAN bus interface with access control by OEM.  This way aftermarket devices could access all relevant vehicle information as long as access UN/PW is obtained through the OEM.  

“I would also expand the required supported data set on the OBD port to include VIN and Odometer

“Further I would recommend that vehicles will be rated on mileage and emissions based on actual data to complement lab testing for new models.  This could create a commercial motivation for vehicle maintenance and proper tire inflation.“

Respondent R:  Release Safety Pilot results

“I think the #1 thing that I would communicate to the USDOT is to release results from the Safety Pilot program sooner rather than later.  I think the lack of hard data on how the trial is going is creating uncertainty.  I appreciate that they do not want to release results until they have checked and double-checked them, but they are creating an information vacuum which acts counter to their goals.”

Respondent S:  Expand the Internet

“This is a great initiative! Though I have yet to visit the referenced URL, I am supposing that it also provides the opportunity for proposing complement or alternative ideas to fill the gaps.

“My personal opinion (as you may know since my presentation at XXX though technically, there are other more cost-effective solutions, I consider the DOT-driven NHTSA mandate on a DSRC-based V2V deployment is a great opportunity for increasing the reach and the performance of the Internet.

“The vision is, each DSRC-equipped car is a mobile Internet node. In addition to the thus-created multiple business opportunities for non-safety applications, there are many direct benefits such as (1) easing the pressure of spectrum scarcity, and (2) each car owner will own a piece of the broadband wireless Infrastructure...

“I have started to promote the vision through cooperation with entities that understand the Internet. I would be glad to associate you with this initiative.”

Respondent T:  Need more standards

“While I certainly agree with mandate #1, I think it needs to go beyond that.  I bought a new vehicle a few months ago (a Prius) and even without looking at my phone the options that now are available on the dash are amazing.  Even for someone who should know better, the temptations to use the technology while driving are hard to resist.  I don't see a way to put the genie back in the bottle so it's important DOT support research to make these services safer to use in the vehicle.  Part of it is improving the voice recognition technology.  While that is far better than it once was, I find it still has a difficult time understanding me and encourages me to bypass the voice commands and use the touch screen.

“While individual automakers will want to differentiate their offerings, it would be helpful if some standards were created so there's not a whole new learning curve each time you get into a new vehicle. 

Respondent U:  Prioritize parking

“My opinion re V2X is non-specific. I prefer extreme autonomy (more "V" and less "X"), but I suspect some X is necessary, especially during the 25-30 years during which non-equipped vehicles will be permitted on the road. I do not like fixed, physical infrastructure.  It slows progress and it often forms road hazards.  In addition, "X" is paid by the taxpayer (increasingly from the general fund, "V" is paid by the vehicle purchaser (unless subsidized, which is a separate conversation).  I like "driver-pays".  That keeps roads sustainable (I am pro-car).

“I would like to see a program to force non-compliant vehicles off the road on a sooner rather than later schedule. At least off some roads. Start with highways over a certain speed, then increase the speed on the roads that have compliant vehicles only.

“There is still not enough attention paid to parking.  (V2X is about speed, efficiency and safety, but we still don't know what to do with our vehicles when we arrive). The Value Pricing programs supported by FHWA re LA Express Park and Washington DC's project for metered curbside parking are notable exceptions. USDOT should expressly encourage a speed up to fully digital credentials for parking (smart phone, autonomous meters, in-car meters and other methods that eschew curb-side meters).  

“Called "asset-lite parking, DOT should encourage cities to evolve block-face by block-face to in-car metering (includes smart phone, of course), and the gradual end of time-limited free parking.  This can be done by promoting standards, subsidizing data gathering and analytics for variable pricing, progressive pricing and the move from "free-parking" (to maximize congestion) to "demand-based pricing" (to minimize congestion) then to "market pricing" (what the market will bear, to maximize municipal revenue).

“USDOT should set a proposed date of 2025 or 2030 for the removal of all curbside machines dispensing parking credentials (except at tourist kiosks, but even then such credentials could be purchased on-line by visitors), in US cities with a population over 50,000. The reliance on these machines prevents cities from developing truly flexible demand-management programs.  Point out that the digital wallet adds pressure on cities to move strongly toward digital credentials.

“Point out that in 2025 the curbside parking meter is no more necessary than the public phone booth.”

Respondent V:  Leverage LTE


• In my perspective the 4G / cellular is underrated in the V2X space. Today’s cellular network’s can’t do everything that DSRC can, e.g. in terms of latency. But they can do some things and they are ready for use today. Using them for some, non-critical use-cases would open an opportunity to get the whole idea of V2X started, especially business cases that would give the players in the field an incentive to be a first mover.

• US DoT’s activities have been focusing on V2V recently. In my perspective this is the wrong strategy. There are V2I use cases (e.g. based on cellular) which could give the early adopters among our customers a benefit from day one. All the discussion has circled too much around a government mandate and too less about incentives for early adopters to overcome the “chicken and egg problem”.

• I’ve worked the last three years in the space of V2I over cellular. Unfortunately I can’t share details at this time, but we’ve made astonishing advances by tapping into city’s traffic management systems. It’s a pity the government completely ignores this path. Your recent article was spot-on! (

• I see no strategy whatsoever to integrate the classic telematics world with the DSRC world. It seems like these are two separated worlds that don’t even talk with each other. What we need is a holistic approach, which integrates all available technologies into a common ecosystem. DSRC and 4G-based telematics are too close to ignore each other.

• One common misconception of DSRC is that the OEMs would build autonomous safety systems that completely rely on it. The truth is we won’t. We will always require a DSRC signal to be confirmed by a vehicle sensor before our system would take action autonomously. This limits the usefulness of DSRC.

• Cellular networks will support device-to-device (D2D) communication in the foreseeable future. This will allow devices (e.g. smartphones) to communicate directly, without a cell tower present. No extra radio is need for that - it will be integrated in the cell phone chips. This technology will bring cellular even closer to DSRC. Together with the trend towards autonomous vehicles, which do not need DSRC, this might kill DSRC.

The bottom line is that in my perspective the window of opportunity for DSRC is already closing. It's too little and too late what we've seen so far. Better or similar useful technologies will be available soon. We should move the focus to them.

One more statement regarding the DSRC world: it seems to me that over a decade of government funding has created an 'ecosystem' of companies, consultants and researchers who make a living from keeping the stream of tax payers money going. They shouldn't have too much of a voice regarding the decision about the next steps. To say it with a German idiom: "Don't ask the frogs if you want to drain the swamp.”

December 24, 2013 22:29 rlanctot

GM has been flooding YouTube with ads featuring OnStar this holiday season. The ads, which have been around since mid-year and have appearing previously on television, present either the remote diagnostics or roadside assistance capabilities of the 17-year-old telematics service.

The ads are interesting for the way they highlight the challenges still facing the automotive industry when it comes to leveraging a built-in modem to sell more cars. After investing hundreds of millions of dollars in OnStar, a well-recognized and powerful brand name, the expectation is that OnStar ought to help sell cars.

Many years ago, OnStar was capable of doing precisely that, easing the anxiety of car buyers that help would be automatically summoned in the event of an accident. But the advent of the smartphone has somewhat diminished the power and relevance of this message.

But still, OnStar remains a key element of GM’s unique selling proposition and so the advertising campaign must go on.  Among the places I have run across OnStar’s TV ads and high volume is on YouTube. There are two ads, one focusing on remote diagnostics and the other on roadside assistance.

The remote diagnostic ad shows a GM vehicle having an extraterrestrial experience with a satellite beaming vehicle information from the car to the vehicle owner – reassuring that owner that the car is performing as it should. The roadside assistance ad promises that OnStar will come to the rescue if one of its vehicles should leave the roadway and become disabled.

Of course, OnStar isn’t the only car company trying to sell cars be touting the benefits of a built-in cellular module for emergency calls, roadside assistance or even vehicle diagnostics. Hyundai, too, has advertised its built-in BlueLink solution – also to limited effect. The problem lies in the the limitations of these two use cases.

In the case of the vehicle diagnostics communication, customers tend to lose interest. In the real world, very little goes wrong with new cars in the first couple of years of ownership - hopefully. As a result, after the first couple periodic messages, consumers tend to lose interest.

To make diagnostic communications more compelling cars would have to perform far less predictably – ie. they’d have to fail more often. No one wants that. What customers do want, though, is real-time communications when a system fails, or better yet a message anticipating a failure and alerting the driver.

Both of these cases are problematic from an advertising perspective. It is hard to highlight how a car either anticipates or responds to system failures. This is especially true when most of the car advertising on television shows drivers blissfully driving through winding mountain roads or empty (yes, empty!) city streets.

The closest that television advertising for cars in the U.S. comes to the emergency response or breakdown anticipation message are ads emphasizing safety aired most prominently by Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. Consumers' car-purchasing instincts are not stimulated by ads for roadside assistance or vehicle diagnostics.

The roadside assistance ad, in particular, is an interesting twist for OnStar. In the past these ads emphasized the case of a violent crash with the potential for injuries and an urgent OnStar response. In the latest ad the driver appears to have simply wandered onto the shoulder of the road and become stuck.

With U.S. highway fatalities declining annually for the past decade (a string broken last year with a slight uptick), the average consumer simply does not fear death or injury from a car crash the way they should or the way they did 17 years ago. As a result, the advertising message may only resonate with older consumers, although the driver in the ad is decades away from retirement age.

The ads and their presence on YouTube on the eve of Christmas and at the peak of year-end new-car offers suggests a bid to sell cars with the OnStar message or at least build brand equity. Coming as they do less than a year ahead of GM’s launch of LTE technology the ads capture a moment in time for GM that is passing quickly.

By this time next year OnStar will be talking in its ads about software updates and application downloads, remote control of the car and in-vehicle app stores. Until then, we can sleep soundly in the quiet assurance that OnStar is watching over its customers this holiday season.

A final note: OnStar is once again offering its Santa Claus report to customers who press the blue button:

From Twitter:

OnStar @OnStar 10h

#Santa’s journey has just begun! Press the blue #OnStar button to follow him from the North Pole to your door.

Is it asking too much to want an actual traffic report instead?

December 21, 2013 14:28 rlanctot

EE Times reported last week that Google will announce a consortium to foster the development of some sort of “Android in Car” solution to counter Apple’s iOS in Car concept. Apple claims iOS in Car is being adopted by as many as 12 car makers – although the industry as a whole is still waiting to hear about precisely of what iOS in Car consists.

The EE Times story got a lot of attention in the industry, but appears to be a bunch of hokum. The operative paragraph in the piece was as follows:

“In addition to Android in the Car, the announcement will involve the formation of an industry consortium and the adoption of communication standards, EE Times has learned. Google’s goal presumably, is to make it easier for developers to design apps for cars.”

There are few things more unlikely than Google seeking to create a consortium. Google doesn’t create consortiums. Companies create consortiums to cope with Google or to take on Google. But Google does not create consortiums. Google is the antithesis of the consortium ethos.

The reason the words “Google” and “consortium” are something of an oxymoron is the fact that Google turns the idea of a consortium and coalition on its head. Google was founded to leverage the strength of the Linux open source community in its favor as the creator of a “closed” version of Linux – ie. Android.

In Google’s world, there is no sharing or cooperation. Anyone interested in using Android needs to cooperate with Google. So there is no point in creating or participating in any consortium.

The only thing less likely than Google participating in or creating a consortium, however, is the possibility of Google allowing Apple to steal the limelight at CES. And, of course, the only thing less likely than that is that Apple might actually attend CES. Apple has become spectacularly adept at influencing CES without even showing up.

So, to be clear, Apple will not attend CES. And Google, too, will not have a presence at the show.

So the alleged confrontation between these two “tech giants” will take place by proxy throughout the show floor.  Both Google and Apple have a wide range of projects underway in the automotive market including:





SendtoCar, Maps/Navi, Traffic, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Android, POIs, etc.

Search aggregation and advertising revenue


Siri, iOS in Car, iTunes, Navigation, iTunes Radio, adapters and interfaces

Selling hardware and content

Both companies have shown interest in screen replication solutions – along the lines of MirrorLink – reproducing the content on the mobile device screen into the head unit. MirrorLink is the product of a consortium – initiated by Nokia in cooperation with a coalition of European car makers.

The key difference for Google is that more than a dozen car makers are actually working on embedded Android-based systems – putting the OS directly into the car’s center stack rather than enabling a mobile device connection. Hyundai and Kia have announced their plans for in-dash Android systems and other car companies have shown or demonstrated similar concepts.

Google has been aggressively pursuing enterprise-wide relationships with car makers. As part of these efforts Google has made it clear that it is interested in taking charge of much more than just the in-car infotainment system. The company is out to take on the entire connected car customer experience.

It is for this reason that the concept of a consortium is so laughable. Google doesn’t collaborate. Google takes over. In this, Google is much like Apple.

Expect Google to continue to pursue its industry absorption strategy at CES, even if only indirectly. Google’s strength lies in its focus and in its developer support. For their part the car makers want to glean the best of Google – developer support for Android – while avoiding the downside – Google’s customer conquest.

One thing has been clarified recently, though. Google has put the word out that car makers licensing Android for use in center stacks must deploy Android without modification.

Only by preserving Android in its entirety will OEMs guarantee that their systems can be updated thereby preserving compatibility. Google is making clear that forked versions of Andoid, such as those found in the Renault R-Link and Volvo Sensus systems, are on the wrong track. That is how Google arrives at consensus – no need for a consortium.  Are you on the bus?

December 1, 2013 05:47 rlanctot

The week before the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S., I was on a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles for the L.A. Auto Show in a plane with no in-seat power and no seatback or overhead display. (There was also only a paid snack, no free meal.) What the airline offered, though, was Wi-Fi (paid).

Combined with a recent loosening of the rules governing the use of mobile devices on airplanes in the U.S. it is clear that the era of bring your own device (BYOD) on airplanes has arrived. For airlines, the calculation is clear – removing displays in every seat (along with overhead displays) reduces weight and fuel consumption.

Add in the fact that a significant portion of travelers are willing to pay for the privilege of wirelessly connecting and the switch to BYOD is a no-brainer. Flying is a sit back experience – although I am writing this blog while in flight over the Pacific.  Walk down the aisle of an airplane on a long haul flight and you will find 50% or more of the passengers with their faces bathed in an LCD glow from a mobile device.

The airline I fly most frequently, United, is clearly in the midst of a fleet-wide Wi-Fi upgrade:

In cars, though, it is a different story. While driving seven hours to Thanksgiving dinner and eight hours back from Thanksgiving dinner this past week it was clear that the BYOD era has arrived in cars – at least in my car. Two of my sons played games, texted and talked on their personal devices in the rearseat, connecting with personal unlimited data plans.

But driving back at night revealed at least two dozen neighboring SUVs and minivans on the highway with fold-down, ceiling-mounted displays – including one three-row SUV with two rows of fold-down displays. Display configurations in cars include single split screens, headrest-mounted displays, fold up and fold down systems.

Rearseat entertainment remains, famously, a niche category – suitable mainly for young families and hip-hop artists. But RSE suppliers seeking growth can find it in emerging markets, where both OEM and aftermarket installation of these systems continues to grow.

Where airlines may be removing displays to reduce weight, car makers are adding displays, according to Strategy Analytics forecasts and in response to consumer demand: - In-Vehicle Displays: Consumer Preferences and Market Forecast.

A unique circumstance is emerging in cars, though, as the means of connecting mobile devices to on-board displays continue to proliferate. From the Wi-Fi Alliance's Miracast to Apple’s Airplay, VNC and HTPC technologies, the future will find cars and airplanes diverging in their display installation strategies.  In cars, consumers will increasingly seek to connect their mobile device to the on-board system - while airplanes will remain a disconnected, personal experience.

Built-in displays may be disappearing from some airplane cabins, while proliferating in cars. But both user environments are seeking to accommodate the brought in mobile devices of drivers and passengers in their own ways. But please, United, bring back in-seat power.

November 27, 2013 17:40 rlanctot

Harman’s Aha shook up the automotive industry this week with a video demonstrating its vision of the future of in-vehicle advertising. The video (available here: highlights the collaboration between Aha and Placecast to deliver a location-enhanced advertising experience in the car.

The video shows ads popping up in the head unit using the same HMI of music or radio station play (album art + thumbs up) with an audio call to action.  Regulators may grumble, but the interaction that is enabled is no more complex or challenging than changing a radio station or CD.

The video shows the results of a test, already implemented and in the field, running through December 20 with what Aha execs describe as a light schedule of stations and impression loads.  All OEM and aftermarket implementations of Aha have the experience enabled including more than 50 models from 14 OEMs including the Ford F-Series, Escape and Fusion; Honda Accord and Odyssey; Subaru Forester and Impreza; Mazda 3; and  Porsche Cayenne and Boxster.

Aha says more than 2 million vehicles on the road are capable of displaying the Aha application.  The big challenge seems not to be getting into cars, something for which Aha has demonstrated an acumen, but rather getting consumers to tune in.

Aha is not alone in seeking to redefine the advertising experience in the car.  Other candidates include Clip Interactive using audio content recognition and Roximity (available via Ford SYNC) which offers some location awareness.  Aha is alone in enabling a center stack display of the offer with interactivity - something previously thought to be anathema.

Airbiquity and others have shown similar concepts.  TeleNav, in particular, is focusing on location-enhanced advertising on mobile devices with plans to bring the experience into the head unit.  But Aha is first to the dash.

Clearly an interactive advertising offer will not attract consumers, so the video is an obvious business-to-business message for car makers and their suppliers.  What Aha has enabled, though is a template for transforming the advertising experience in the car.

The automotive industry has become almost completely unmoored from the radio dial.  In the process, a door has been opened to a new content and media engagement opportunity that can be location-enhanced and listener-focused.

Aha is pointing the way toward a third path – away from Google and Apple – for automakers to create a more intimate engagement with their customers.  With Aha, automakers will be able to enrich the driving experience by giving drivers control of their advertising experience in the car.

Users of Aha will ultimately be able to pay for no advertisements or specify the time, type and frequency of the advertising they receive.  All is now possible along with the further added value, to the car maker, of extracting vehicle data for even closer customer engagement.

The Aha demo does raise questions regarding ad triggers and frequency and the potential for driver distraction.  But these concerns are manageable.  Most of all the demo suggests that there is no turning back now that the industry can see what is possible. 

All that remains for Aha, and its parent Harman, is to surrender the so-far futile branding effort around Aha and embrace a white label market strategy.  Aha can become a default infotainment platform in the car, OEM-branded, and with a customized business model and HMI suitable to each OEM.

Whether Harman will embrace this opportunity and reposition Aha away from its branded-button-on-the-screen positioning to a more all-encompassing in-vehicle interaction platform remains to be seen.  Now that Aha has demonstrated that the Starbucks-discount-offer-as-I’m-driving-by-Starbucks proposition is possible, it is time to consider the broader implications.

Aha will never be Google, Apple or Facebook, but it is the perfect antidote to these pretenders.  Google, Apple and Facebook are all seeking to move into the automotive industry and carjack its customers.  Aha is showing a way for OEMs to stay in the driver’s seat.  That is something we can all give a thumbs up.


November 25, 2013 13:21 rlanctot

Three car fires affecting Tesla’s Model S in the past month have caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (at the invitation of Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk) to announce a safety investigation, the results of which will likely not be available for months. Tesla’s stock price has taken a hit and financial analysts expect sales to suffer, but Musk keeps turning crises into marketing opportunities, while highlighting a significant auto industry blind spot: software updates.

In response to the fires, Tesla announced a software over the air update to raise the speed at which the car automatically lowers itself by an inch for better aerodynamics. For more details, read Musk’s blog:

(Of course, what Tesla’s Model S really needs is Mercedes Benz’s Magic Body Control, which is capable of dynamically anticipating road undulations and setting vehicle suspension settings on the fly: But you can’t download sensors.)

In his blog, Musk invites NHTSA to investigate the fires while emphasizing the fact (based on National Fire Protection Association data) that a driver is 4.5x more likely to experience a car fire in a car equipped with an internal combustion engine than in a Tesla Model S.  Musk also notes the absence of any injuries or fatalities in Model S fires vs. “400 fatalities and 1,200 serious injuries” from 250,000 car fires occurring since the middle of 2012 in the U.S.

In his blog, Musk also offers an update and an expansion of the existing Model S warranty to compensate owners who may experience future fires and notes plans for a software update to give control of suspension height to the driver.

Software updates remain a sore point for car makers dependent on franchise dealers. Dealers have made clear their concerns regarding software updates and how those updates rob them of a valuable point of customer interaction.

In spite of dealer resistance, car makers such as Chrysler and Toyota have enabled software updates via connected smartphones for basic app updates and installation. And flash drives are still used for map updates and software upgrades by other car companies. In both instances, though, the customer has the option of having the dealer manage the update. (Ford and Fiat, in particular, have made broad use of flash drive updating with mixed results.)

Tesla’s software update philosophy is simple – Tesla will deliver and install the update at a time convenient to the owner at no cost. Following the update, Tesla will provide documentation detailing the extent of the enhancements added to the vehicle.

GM and OnStar have had and have used a similar approach for the past few years, but have played down the capability out of concern for harming dealer relations. Instead of leveraging firmware over the air updates (FOTA) as a competitive advantage – capable of adding value to the car after the sale – GM has only gone so far as to highlight vehicle diagnostic capabilities in its advertising.

Another reason for GM to downplay its FOTA capabilities is the difference between the 3G telecom module from AT&T in the Tesla Model S and the 2.5G telecom module from Verizon currently used by OnStar. Tesla is actively leveraging the wireless connection to enhance the user experience with streaming audio, and access to Google Maps and a Web browser in addition to software updates.

OnStar, in contrast, has been far more conservative with its wireless connection emphasizing low-bandwidth applications such as remote door unlock/lock, remote start, turn-by-turn navigation, stolen vehicle tracking and recovery and diagnostics. That conservatism may change by this time next year as LTE-equipped GM cars begin arriving in the market.

In the meantime, GM will do well to take notes on Tesla’s approach to software updates and the marketing points the company is able to score – unencumbered by franchise dealers trying to protect their service business. The challenge for GM and the industry is to find a win-win solution for dealers, OEMs and car owners to convert software updates to a competitive advantage a la Tesla.